Kinky Boots

on April 14, 2006 by Christine James
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'Pull yourself up by your kinky bootstraps' is the theme of this based-on-a-true-story comedy in which "The Full Monty" meets Frederick's of Hollywood's shoe department. Charlie Price ("King Arthur's" Joel Edgerton) is a wannabe ad exec finally breaking away from his father's dream for him to take over the family shoe factory -- but he's obliged to return when Dad suddenly dies. Charlie learns that the manufacturing plant is also not long for this world, according to the red ink in the books. Despite it being the last thing he wants to do, Charlie feels obliged to save the company out of respect for its multigenerational lineage and for the sake of the workers. However, the quality product Price & Sons has always been known for has recently been snubbed by retailers in favor of inexpensive product that wears out quickly and thus keeps the customer in need of replacements. Charlie doesn't know how to resolve this until fate teams him up with his niche market. One that needs top-notch, durable footwear. Preferably in a size 13 and made of red patent leather with snakeskin accents. For those who still haven't twigged, this would be the transvestite sector.

When Charlie comes to the aid of a damsel-in-distress who's being harassed by some thugs, his world changes when he learns that ain't no lady. It's Lola ("Dirty Pretty Things'" Chiwetel Ejiofor), a drag queen who bemoans, broken heel in hand, that stiletto boots weren't made to hold someone six-foot-two with a boxer's physique. The two team up, but both must surmount situational obstacles as well as their own insecurities before the rousing, Swarovski-crystal-studded feel-good finale.

Ejiofor is deeply charismatic yet elegantly subtle as Lola (né Simon), who can belt out lyrics like "I wanna be evil/I wanna spit tacks" without batting a false eyelash, but de-wig him and put him in a pair of jeans "and I can't even sodding well say hello." Edgerton, whom keen-eyed audiences might recognize as Uncle Owen from the "Star Wars" prequels, is likable as the straight man (literally and comedically), though his being Conan O'Brien's doppelganger can be a bit distracting, especially when pop culture worlds collide and he has a Brad from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" moment on a Milan runway. Overall, the story's beats and developments are a little too familiar, though quirky wit and a genuine warmth make getting from one to the next a pleasure. Starring Joel Edgerton, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Sarah-Jane Potts and Nick Frost. Directed by Julian Jarrold. Written by Geoff Deane and Tim Firth. Produced by Nick Barton, Suzanne Mackie and Peter Ettedgui. A Miramax release. Comedy. Rated PG-13 for thematic material involving sexuality, and for language. Running time: 106 min

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